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  • Cara Priestley

"To heal a wound, it must first be cleaned” - Key Asks and Priorities of Survivors in South Sudan

Updated: Oct 20, 2021

Between 22-24 September 2021, South Sudanese survivors of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) gathered in Juba for a series of “Survivors Speak” workshops and an advocacy event. Their key asks and priorities can be found here.

Gathered around the board room at UNDP, survivors from different regions had the chance to kindle solidarity across ethnic divides - critical for the journey ahead in fomenting peace, justice and reconciliation.

Symbolically sharing the same space as policy makers, survivors raised their voices and spoke powerfully on the impact of CRSV on their lives and their corresponding rights to a remedy and reparation. They raised the need for urgent interim measures in order to be able to access justice processes.

“Transitional justice processes need to go ahead, but first we need to address the needs of survivors. A hungry person cannot forget easily, because their problems are not resolved.”

These correspond with victims' rights to assistance and support in relation to access to justice. Indeed, survivors’ number one priority is for immediate medical, psychological, social and livelihoods needs whilst peace and transitional justice processes are ongoing. As one survivor expressed during the workshop:

“To heal a wound, it must first be cleaned.”

As momentum has grown on the establishment of transitional justice mechanisms, in particular the establishment of the Commission on Truth, Reconciliation and Healing (CTRH) , participants also talked of the need for justice, particularly the need for recognition:

"There is no justice. We lost everything. Where there is no hybrid court, we cannot get anything." "We need justice – women are suffering. They have the right to work, but no right from ordinary people in South Sudan."

Survivors also spoke powerfully and movingly about the lack of security they face in South Sudan and as refugees in neighbouring countries, and the need for lasting peace:

“We do not need compensation if our needs can be met and there is peace. Perhaps we are meant to suffer forever?”

The “Survivors Speak” events were attended by South Sudanese survivors, civil society, and representatives from the Technical Committee and R-JMEC. International participants included the Global Survivors Fund (GSF), the UN Human Rights Commission on South Sudan (UNHRCSS), the UN Development Programme in South Sudan (UNDP), the UN Peace Keeping Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), the Mukwege Foundation, Legal Action Worldwide (LAW), Amnesty International, the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM).

We thank all of our attendees and co-partners for their support in making the “Survivors Speak” events a reality and look forward to our continuing partnerships and engagement to ensure that transitional justice processes are survivor-centred in South Sudan. An immediate outcome was the inclusion of survivors in the training of the Technical Committee working to establish the CTRH. However, there is critical need for the Technical Committee to be granted the requisite time, resources, and civic space to conduct widespread consultations on the establishment of the CTRH and other mechanisms. Whilst we acknowledge the efforts and increased momentum around establishing the CTRH, much more needs to be done.

This project is carried out in the context of a multi-country study on the status and opportunities for reparations for survivors of conflict-related sexual violence.

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